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THE ATLANTIC ALLIANCE WIDENS ITS CIRCLE NATO ministers yesterday endorsed a US plan to offer limited partnerships to Russia and other former foes. The plan will offer military cooperation ranging from joint exercises to coordinated peacekeeping, but it falls short of the membership countries had sought. The partnership will be open to all former Warsaw Pact countries and Soviet states, as well as Europe's four neutral nations. Potential partners would be required to share information about their defense budgets and defense forces, show that civilians control their militaries, and standardize weapons, communications, and tactics with NATO. Partners also would be expected to participate in peacekeeping missions, disaster relief operations, and crisis management operations. European nations hope the plan will decrease the potential for the spread of weapons of mass destruction. Israeli-PLO talks bog

Israeli and Palestinian delegations hit their first serious negotiating snag today over Israel's refusal to release Palestinian prisoners accused of killing Israeli citizens. The Palestinians seek the release of all of the estimated 12,000 prisoners held by Israel, but Israeli officials worry that releasing all prisoners would fuel opposition to the peace plan.

An assassination yesterday of a moderate Palestinian leader, Assad Saftawi, in Gaza Strip cast a pall over the talks in Taba, Egypt.

US backs Shevardnadze

President Clinton yesterday backed the embattled former Soviet foreign minister Eduard Shevardnadze in the Republic of Georgia in the Caucasus.

Rebels loyal to former President Zviad Gamsakhurdia are fighting to restore him to power and remove President Shevardnadze. In a separate conflict, secessionists have captured the western Georgian province of Abkhazia.

The US also started a series of nine aid flights Oct. 5 and was planning to send more food, shelter, blankets, and clothing. Serbian parliament sacked


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